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Telecommunications Council

Mr. Plaskitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what was the outcome of the Telecommunications Council meeting held in Luxembourg on 3 October. [134446]

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Ms Hewitt: There was an orientation debate on the proposed Local Loop Unbundling Regulation. During the debate all member states stressed their commitment to the Regulation and a rapid timescale for its adoption. I strongly welcomed the Regulation as an enormously important issue for the development of e-commerce across the European Union, and confirmed the UK fully supported and would be fully compliant with it. The Presidency hopes that the Regulation will be adopted at the very latest at the next Telecommunications Council in December.

The Council adopted a Resolution calling for a more co-ordinated EU approach within ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Welcoming this, the Commission now intends to establish a network of European expertise on internet naming and addressing issues.

The Commission gave a progress report on the creation of an .eu top level domain name, and it is expected that a Commission Proposal will follow in October. The Council also took note of a Presidency progress report on the programme to improve the exploitation of public sector information, facilitate access to venture capital and boost multilingual content on the internet. The Presidency hopes a Council Decision will be adopted in December. There was also a Presidency progress report on the state of discussions on the new measures under the 1999 Communications Review.

The Council also discussed the Commission's postal services proposal, the main provision of which is to reduce the area reserved for incumbent national postal operators (the 'reserved area') from deliveries weighing less than 350 grams to those under 50 grams. During discussions, member states were divided on whether the proposal offered an acceptable pace of liberalisation, with several member states calling for a target date for full liberalisation. The Presidency hope for agreement at the next Telecommunications Council in December.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Sanctions

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list all the changes to sanctions regimes implemented by the United Kingdom since 28 July. [134499]

Mr. Hain: There have been changes to the following sanctions regimes.

Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

Following the election of Vojislav Kostunica as President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), European Union Foreign Ministers agreed at the General Affairs Council on 9 October to revise EU sanctions against the FRY.

The EU oil embargo and flight ban were lifted with effect from 9 October. Legislation implementing these measures in the Overseas Territories by means of a licensing requirement is being repealed.

EU financial sanctions and the visa ban will be revised. Restrictive measures against Milosevic and his associates will be maintained.

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The EU arms embargo and embargo on the supply to the FRY of equipment which might be used for internal repression or terrorism are unaffected. The UN arms embargo against the FRY and prohibition on the arming and training for terrorist activities there remain in force.

Ethiopia and Eritrea

UN Security Council resolution 1298 (2000), which was adopted on 17 May, imposed an arms embargo and a ban on the provision of related technical assistance and training in relation to Ethiopia and Eritrea. Since then, two further Security Council resolutions have been adopted which set out exemptions for demining and peacekeeping purposes.

UNSCR 1312 (2000) was adopted on 1 August and exempts the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) from the prohibitions imposed by UNSCR 1298. UNSCR 1320 (2000) was adopted on 15 September and allows equipment and other material, including technical assistance and training to be provided for demining within Ethiopia and Eritrea under the auspices of UNMAS. It also allows the sale and supply of arms and related material for the sole use of the United Nations in Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Sierra Leone

UNSCR 1306 (2000), which was adopted on 5 July, imposed a ban on the import of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone.

The resolution provided for an exemption from the ban for diamonds controlled by the Government of Sierra Leone through a Certificate of Origin regime when the UN Sanctions Committee on Sierra Leone had reported to the Security Council that an effective regime was fully in operation.

The Committee Chairman reported to the President of the Security Council on 6 October that the Committee had no objection to the procedures to be implemented by the Government of Sierra Leone. Therefore, diamonds controlled through the Government's Certificate of Origin regime are now exempt from the prohibition on the import of all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone imposed by UNSCR 1306.

TREASURY

Pre-Budget Report

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he plans to deliver his Pre-Budget report to the House. [134502]

Mr. Gordon Brown: On Wednesday 8 November.

Duty Free

Barbara Follett: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will be reviewing the duty-free successor regime for intra-EU voyages; and if he will make a statement. [134503]

Dawn Primarolo: Intra-EU sales of duty-free alcohol and tobacco, for passengers to take away, were abolished from 1 July 1999. I said at that time that a post- implementation review of the successor regime would take place. I have now approved the Terms of Reference,

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copies of which are available in the Library of the House. I expect to publish the findings of the review early in the New Year.

The review will concentrate on how well the successor regime is working and whether there are any further technical changes which can be made to improve its operation. Customs will be asking those businesses concerned in the intra-EU sales of excise goods what changes they would like to see. The review will also assess the effect of the abolition of intra-EU duty free sales on the Exchequer receipts of excise duty and VAT.

Late Payments

Mr. Efford: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will ensure that small companies automatically receive interest from public bodies on late payments made after 30 days of being invoiced; [134107]

Mr. Andrew Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the three answers my hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce gave to him on 23 October 2000, Official Report, columns 9-10W.

Mr. Efford: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will seek to amend the Late Payments of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 to ensure that small companies automatically receive interest from public bodies on late payments made after 30 days of being invoiced. [134108]

Mr. Andrew Smith: Under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, small businesses have an automatic right to claim interest from public bodies on debts incurred under contracts agreed after 1 November 1998.

DEFENCE

Animals (Research)

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the use of animals in defence research. [134449]

Dr. Moonie: The independent Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Jeremy Lucke, has published its fourth annual report. The Committee was set up in 1996 specifically to keep under review the care and welfare arrangements of animals used in defence research. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

The use of animals in defence research is concerned with providing the armed forces with safe and effective protection against hazards encountered while conducting their duties, and is kept to the absolute minimum.

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The Committee's Report highlights the work being done by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency to ensure the welfare of all animals used for defence research purposes. The report provides assurances that all animals used in defence research programmes in the UK are regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. The report also concludes that there is an effective ethical review process for the application of new licences which examines, among other issues, whether the use of animals can be avoided altogether in any new research procedures.

The Ministry of Defence continues to seek to find alternatives to the use of animals wherever possible. There is still much to be done in developing technologies that allow the use of animals in experiments to be further reduced. We welcome continuing scrutiny by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and aim to minimise the use of animals as far as possible, against the continuing requirement to research effective measures to counter the hazards faced by the armed forces in the conduct of their duties.


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